Memento Mori

I was walking down sunny Manhattan Avenue in Brooklyn last weekend. It had been so long since I had hanged out in my favorite city in the world. I am a Brooklyn babe (like Lana Del Rey haha), and it felt even better that I was in town just for an impromptu courtesy visit.

Outside one out of the million antique shops of the street, I saw a sign: ‘Badass Vintage for your Badass life’. I love the word ‘badass’, so I got in. The store felt different from all the ones trying to sell you dusty yet soulless old stuff. It was clean and bright and every object was exhibited like in a museum.

My eyes were browsing aimlessly, curious but not caught. A French ashtray from the Galeries Lafayette, earrings, old cameras… I turned around and I am sure I let out a strange cry for I got moved in an unusual way. I got very close to the object of my curiosity. I am not good at visually describing things. Here is what I saw.

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A label was hanging from the handmade old frame. ‘Memento Mori, circa 1900. $240.’ I contemplated the Dead Lady for a long time. The quaint charm of the photograph was truly captivating. Every detail of the arrangement had been thought about, like a silent movie scene. The profusion of flowers, the old piano, the portrait of the Lincoln looking guy above her coffin, her wedding gown, the position of her hands carefully crossed on her chest. Her pale face which looked about the same age as mine. I got overwhelmed by a stream of mixed feelings. I didn’t know which one was predominant. Empathy, for her prematured death which could have only been tragic and/or violent? Curiosity about the details of her life? What was her name? Identification, as she could be me? Inspiration, as everything about this scene was so loudly narrative? Morbidity, as I’ve never seen a dead body in real life?

I couldn’t put up with the flow of my bouncy feelings. I was tempted to purchase her immediately and leave with her under my arm, just to keep analyzing my virulent emotions. But I didn’t. I wanted to see if I would easily forget about her. I also didn’t want to spend $240 on an object, because I don’t own any. Only dresses and shoes. I am certainly not an antique collector. On the way out, I saw a 19th century obstetrician tool kit. One of the tools looked like a cork screw.

My Dead Lady was with me all afternoon and all night. I harrassed my friends telling what mysterious spell she had cast over me. I went back to the shop the following day. I stared at my romantically beautiful Dead Lady again. She was smaller than I remembered, but still magically seductive. The young burlesque looking shop owner recognised me. She said that the Dead Lady was waiting for the perfect person to buy her. I replied that it was me and that she was coming back with me to London. While the shop owner was putting green bubble wrap around the original wooden frame, I started asking her a million questions. She had bought the photograph from a lady in Vermont who stored it in her attic. She had inherited it from a grandmother or greatgrandmother, but she didn’t think the Dead Lady was a relative. She didn’t know who she was, no name nor the slightest clue about her existence apart from the approximate date of the picture, between 1890 and 1910. The question started spinning in my head. What was the nature of this woman’s existence? She was such an amazing starting point for a novel, an adventure, any kind of story hunting and story telling.

The burlesque looking shop owner started unfolding bits of her work as an antique dealer. She studied something like criminology (not quite, but similar, I am forgetting the exact subject) and wanted to be a US marshal. She then worked as a private hunter, looking for super specific objects throughout the country upon request from rich people. Her job now consisted in driving the East coast of the US in a van, stopping along the road in diners to talk to people and make connections in order to hear their life story, visit their home and buy unique objects.

The girl won me over for she had exactly the life style that I dream of. Hitting the road, meeting strangers and collecting life stories. This is what I do in my own way, but I haven’t found the trick to turn it into a career just yet. I want a human and itinerant job. Talking with that girl triggered something in my brain about all the possibilities out there to create the work you want if there is no job in the world that perfectly suits you. Just tailor your own. I told her that she should write down and exhibit in her shop the human story attached to each object she sells, so people would not only buy a frame or a piece of furniture, but they would buy a piece of a perfect stranger’s humanity.

On the train that was taking me back to Boston, I googled ‘Memento Mori’. I thought it meant The moment of your death’ but my latin is poor. It literally means ‘Remember to die’ or ‘Remember that you must die’. It is a Christian thing and a whole artistic genre in itself. Puritan America was very big on it between the 17th and the 19th century. I probably purchased one of the last ones as the tradition started fading away.

The forests of New England were passing before my eyes as I was absorbing the events of the recent days on my Amtrak seat. Absorbing the eternal electricity of New York, all these new stories and encounters to integrate into my life. I realised there was a funny correlation in my obsession to find clues about the existence of my Dead Lady with the same passion as I put in trying to find clues about the true nature of my own existence. I think I got a couple clues more during my New York escape. I want my work to be human & itinerant.

I haven’t found a place for my Memento Mori yet. It deserves a very special spot. It is still trapped in its green bubble wrap. It intimidates me to look at it, to welcome it in my home. I am also somewhat afraid that it will haunt me or obsess me with its strong nostalgic presence. I am not going to take that photograph as a daily reminder that I must die. I am going to use it as a daily reminder that I must pursue the life I really want.

If by an extraordinary coincidence someone has any information about the lady on the picture, please contact me: mother_chaos@mail.com – Thanks!

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יְרוּשָׁלַיִם (Jerusalem)

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I arrived at the central bus station of Jerusalem at mid-day in the sticky heat.

I had no map, no real plan and no clue where to go. I naively thought that I would get off the bus at the bottom of the Wailing Wall. But Jerusalem is also a city like any other. In Hebrew, it is ‘Ye-ru-sha-la-yim’.

I decided to follow the Orthodox Jews dressed in traditional outfit, thinking they would end up going to the Wall for their prayers. That’s how I lost myself in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of West Jerusalem. I hadn’t seen so many Orthodox Jews since walking Macy Avenue in Brooklyn on Shabbat. The women were mostly young and pushing strollers. They were all wearing skirts, dark colours and tights despite the heat. A lot of them were also wearing a wig, according to the tradition, which was easy to spot as they were all wearing the same one: mid-length straight brown hair with bangs. Only the shade of brown was slightly different from one to the other.

The streets of the old city are small and picturesque. The walls were covered with a bright green poster entitled “Are you aware?” both in English and Hebrew. I stopped to read. It was propaganda for women to measure the length of their skirt and for men being responsible for the modesty of their household. According to the holy texts, exposed limbs should be chopped off and boiled. It also stipulated that women shouldn’t speak too loud and should change sidewalk when men are coming their way. I started feeling seriously self-conscious and readjusted the scarf around my head and shoulders. Thank God I was wearing my longest dress, but the buttons on the chest pop up because my boobs are expressive. I’m a girl with volumes, what can I do? I was afraid they would stone me, though. In certain streets, I was the only girl. I wasn’t comfortable to ask my way and there was still no Western Wall in sight. I ended up hailing a taxi. The driver made me sit at the front, because there was a man at the back and I’m a threat to male integrity.

When the other passenger got off, the cab driver became super friendly. He touched my veil and was like “What is that? What is that? It’s hot! Why are you wearing this?” And he laughed to tears. He couldn’t stop. I laughed too. I told him that everyone was covered from neck to toes and I didn’t want to offend anyone. He was still laughing as if I was the funniest thing he had ever seen. He told me: “Don’t worry, these people are Talibans, they are Daesh!” I relaxed a little.

The driver asked where to drop me off. I said I just wanted to see the Wall. He asked: “What wall?” Best joke ever. I thought asking for the Wall in Jerusalem would be as easy as asking for the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I mimed a wall with my hands and people praying. I don’t think I did a very good job because the guy was laughing but still had no clue. He opened his window and shouted at another taxi driver something in Hebrew punctuated with the word “wall” multiple times. The other driver had no clue either. My dude told me plenty of names in Hebrew which didn’t ring any bell. I attempted to repeat the names but he started laughing to tears again. I think I won funniest client of the week. (I learned afterwards that the Wall is called the ‘Kotel’ in original version). I wrapped it up by asking “OK, just take me to the old stuff“. We passed the tunnel to Jerusalem-East and he literally stopped me in the middle of the road close to a fortress. I had to find my way from there.

I climbed the stairs of the ramparts and got into a different world. I tried to figure out the geography of the place but it was confusing so I walked straight ahead into tiny paved streets where all the “Merchants of the Temple” were selling cheap bibelots for people of all confessions: “Scents of the Bible” perfume set, and my absolute favorite, the glow-in-the-dark Virgin Mary in every size. I burst into laugh. The shop owner didn’t like it. “What’s so funny?” he asked me.

My steps finally took me to the security gate of the Western Wall. Hurray!!!! I must say that I felt something standing there, at the top of the massive stairs that were leading to the Holy place among the Holy places. Men are praying on the left side and women on the right side, but as in any hot spots of the planet, the interesting action was on the men’s side. There is a separation in the middle, but you can peep through a gate to see what’s going on, so I stood there for a while with tons of other idiot tourists like me, observing with one eye the strange dances of the men in costume bending over again and again all in the same way. It was hypnotic and fascinating. The militarists come and pray there as well, and my fav part was that they don’t even take off their weapons. The call for prayer from the mosque emanated as I was leaving. I loved that image. In the same perimeter, there are tons of churches – I lost count – the mosques with their enchanting melody and the Jewish repeating the same choreography since centuries. You just wonder why the three monotheisms are against each other since they all come from that spot of earth? I left with many question marks in my head on the absurdity of the Human kind.

The afternoon was nearing its end when I spotted the sign of the Mount of Olives. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to go because the name had resonated in my imagination since childhood. I was raised super Catholic. My mother has the name of Jesus tattooed on her forearm. I went to religious classes, Bible study and all that between 6 and 11, so I had all the names of the sacred places of Jerusalem somewhere in my memory.

From the Western Wall, it is a fifteen minute walk on an isolated road to get to the Mount of Olives. From distance, my sight couldn’t distinguish what the white stains on the slope of the hill were. I realised afterwards that they are graves and that hundreds of people are buried there. The hill is naked but covered in graves (which cost $100,000 but you go straight to heaven so the rich people of the diaspora book their space.)

The Mount of Olives is a wonder of beauty, peace and mystery. As I was approaching it in the burning sun, I was feeling a highly spiritual wind blowing at me. It is an absolutely captivating place. All the legendary spots of the Bible are a few meters away from each other. I entered the Church of All Nations, at the bottom of the hill, which became my favorite church in the world (as soon as the bunch of Japanese tourists who were taking selfies emptied the premises. Grrrrr.) The stain glasses are all different shades of purple so the inside is bathed in a magical light. There is a place to kneel down under the mosaic of Jesus resisting temptation over the last night of his life. I almost believed all of it for a moment. I believed in God and Jesus an all the Saints while inside the Church of All Nations. (On the outside, I hate religion – or to be accurate, let’s say that religion hates me.) I kneeled down for a while, just to see what it feels like to be humble, and it was a revelation to love it. I totally surrendered, I gave my inner Warrior a break in Faith.

Outside the Church of All Nations is the Garden of the Olive trees where Jesus enjoyed hanging out – the Israeli olive trees are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen – as well as the Grotto of Gethsemane, where Jesus got arrested.  And a couple of steps away is the Tomb of the Virgin Mary, which is one of the most special places I’ve seen in my life.

When you get in, it is dark and the smell of incense hits your nose. You go down very big stone stairs. A million oriental lamps are hanging from the high ceiling. There is an autel on your right with tons of icons and a tiny door – even I had to bend over to get in – and there She is resting. Actually, there is an empty sarcophage with an irregular-surfaced stone in it full of hand-written messages. I left one too. The ambiance of this place is something else, I won’t even try to describe it. At every step, my breath was suspended in fascination and I was just thinking that everyone must stand there once in their life to be impregnated with magic.

I climbed the Mount of Olives on foot as the sun started going on. I passed the Russian Church of Mary Magdalene with its camp shiny golden domes. Mary Magdalene is my middle name so I was really keen to visit the place, but it is only open four hours a week to visitors who are not Russian. I felt an overwhelming urge to get inside that building, like a call. I will come back.

I reached the top of the Mount at sunset. Jerusalem was lying in all its beauty under my feet. The last rays of sun were bouncing on the Dome of the Rock. There was a random camel nearby who tried to give me a kiss.

I took a taxi to the station so I’d get in Tel Aviv right in time for the beginning of the Drag Show at the Evita bar.

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Photo from Wikipedia – Tomb of the Virgin Mary

Portraits of Frenchies #2 : La Fille qui n’aimait pas gâcher

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Je ne connais que des gens inhabituels.

Ma copine C² fait partie de ces quelques personnes que je vois toujours dans une ville différente, parce que nous sommes toutes deux en refonte perpétuelle de nos aspirations. 

Nous nous sommes connues à Londres, où j’habitais depuis environ un an, tandis qu’elle était venue étudier l’histoire de l’art dans le cadre d’un échange Erasmus. Elle écrivait un mémoire sur le motif du pont dans la peinture de Monet. Une amie commune, Σ², nous avait organisé une “blind date” amicale dans l’idée qu’on aurait des atomes crochus.

C² est repartie vivre à Paris, où nous nous sommes croisées quelques fois, mais pas tant que ça non plus. On a notamment manifesté ensemble pour soutenir le mariage gay. 

En septembre dernier, j’ai eu de ses nouvelles. Elle partait passer trois mois à New York, seulement deux semaines après avoir emménagé avec son amoureux à Paris. “Il a dû être touché”, me suis-je dit. Et j’ai aussi vachement rigolé, parce que je trouve ça génial de commencer la vie commune sur des bases claires. Le hasard avait voulu que je séjourne à New York en même temps qu’elle. Mi-octobre, on s’est donc retrouvées dans l’appart de Brooklyn où je passais la semaine, pour manger des pâtes en forme de lama. Le samedi suivant on a fait un pèlerinage au Zabar’s , l’épicerie fine chic et kasher de Broadway, parce que c’est là que Meg Ryan faisait ses courses dans “Vous avez un message”. C² avait la liste de tous les lieux que l’on voit dans le film. Ne me demandez pas pourquoi.

Elle a décidé au pied levé de venir m’accompagner à Philadelphie où je partais quelques jours plus tard. “Peut-être qu’on fera le tour de tous les lieux que l’on voit dans le film avec Tom Hanks”, ai-je pensé. Comme je ne savais pas encore où j’allais habiter (classique), elle a eu la bonté de nous dégotter un AirBnB avec la déco la plus moche du monde, mais l’hôte le plus chou qui soit. Du coup, on ne faisait pas trop attention aux dessins de fleurs fanées accrochés au mur (véridique).

C’est à Philadelphie qu’on est vraiment devenues amies, parce qu’on ne s’étaient jamais vues plusieurs jours consécutifs avant ce voyage. On a vraiment beaucoup ri. On se moquait de tous les objets moches de la chambre où on dormait, et Dieu sait que c’était une joie sans cesse renouvelée même après plusieurs jours.

C’est durant ce séjour que j’ai percé une des caractéristiques de C². Elle adore récupérer et elle déteste gâcher, surtout en matière de nourriture. Elle appelle ça “faire son intendance”. On était raccord là-dessus, parce que je ne suis pas la dernière pour le système D et les trucs gratos, mais je dois avouer que sur ce coup-là j’ai trouvé mon maître (je n’ose pas dire “ma maîtresse”, sinon ça fait bizarre.)

Déjà, C² est arrivée de New York par le bus avec un reste de quiche dans son sac à main. “Sinon elle n’aurait plus été bonne à mon retour”, m’a-t-elle expliqué, alors qu’elle prêchait une convertie. Quand on est allées à l’American Diner du quartier – où soit dit en passant on a passé des soirées mémorables – elle mangeait le ketchup à la petite cuillère. Là, j’ai commencé à la mettre en boîte: “Ben oui, c’est cadeau, autant en profiter!”

Le meilleur restait à venir. Un soir, nous nous sommes retrouvées à la fin de notre journée philadelphienne respective. Je lui ai raconté ma journée d’atelier de 5 Rhythms dance et mon attirance pour le prof de yoga gay dont j’adorais la couleur de peau. Elle, elle m’a raconté avec des yeux pétillants qu’elle avait pénétré dans un jardin communautaire où elle avait cueilli du persil et des tomates, et que ça avait bien agrémenté son pique-nique. C’est à cet instant qu’elle a accédé au rang de mes idoles. Dans la foulée, elle m’a dit qu’un de ses lieux parisiens préférés était le cimetière Saint-Vincent, à Montmartre, et qu’elle y avait déjà cueilli des figues avec lesquelles elle avait fait de la confiture maison. Suite à cette fabuleuse anecdote, je l’ai rebaptisée “La Cueilleuse urbaine”.

Après ces quelques jours enchanteurs, je suis rentrée à Londres et elle à New York.

A mon retour, j’ai reçu de ses nouvelles par email: “Je vais aller à la plage de Rockaway cet après-midi pour ramasser des moules!”

Ben voyons. Une mouclade à la new yorkaise.

Il n’y a vraiment qu’elle pour faire ça.

Dusk of Brooklyn, Dawn of Philadelphia

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I read the phrase “Dusk of Brooklyn” in a magazine or leaflet somewhere, years ago. I don’t remember the context, but I remember contemplating this appealing mental image with desire. I wrote the expression at the top corner of a random note book. See, I need it now.

All of last week, the dusks of Brooklyn were mine. I let them inundate me like I wouldn’t let anyone. My New York time was peculiar. It’s been the quiet part of this adventure, like a restoring pause between two hectic discovery phases. Feels like I’m a New Yorker now and nothing special happens there cause I’m melting in the daily scenery and routine of the City.

I woke up at 5am this morning and finished the night on the Greyhound bus bound to Philadelphia. As the tradition requires, I spent my last night in New York on the 5 Rhythms dance floor. Every time the teacher was asking to pair up with another dancer, I was looking through the window and chose the Empire State Building as a partner. I love dancing with New York and I was shouting on the inside “Manifest that shit!!!!!”

It was such a joyous leaving party, very tall muscled (straight) guy wearing leggings with cat faces was there, and it never feels like I’m leaving New York anyway. I’ll come back again and again and again and one day I won’t have to leave. That’s how the story goes. (I played the Green Card Lottery on Friday and purchased the long life payment option, the “until you win” one. I had found out in the morning that I’m homeless when I get back to London. The friend I was subletting from is getting evicted. How fun! No roof upon my head in Hostile City. So, Mrs Goddess up there or whoever runs the lottery of life, it would be very welcome if I became a permanent US resident by Monday. Thank you.)

I’m sitting alone at a 24 hour diner in South Philadelphia on a rainy evening as I’m writing this. The Wheel of Fortune is playing soundless in the background. I love diners because they never close and are available for drowning your loneliness/sorrow/hunger at any time of night or day (not like people), because they have cosy seats which feel like private booths, because coffee refills are unlimited, because waitresses wear a uniform, and finally, because they are one of the archetypes of America that I cherish from all the 80s movies.

I’ve seen very little of Philly so far, but what stroke me is the number of American flags (way higher ratio than any other US city I’ve visited) and the colourful mosaics on the facades.

I’m in town for a 5 day long 5 Rhythms dance workshop called Cycles, about the map of our family history. It is taught by Jonathan Horan, the son of Gabrielle Roth, founder of the 5 Rhythms dance technique, who passed away two years ago today. We focused all day on the Mother figure: the actual Mother and the Cultural and Divine Mothers. It is hard to describe. I started the class hating everything and everyone for no reason and I gradually sank into the seductive charm of this odd technique. I had to tell strangers the circumstances of my conception and birth.

I loved it.

Portraits of America #4: The Girl With A Thing For Napoleon

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This is my core friend α.

She is featured in many of my posts. She moved from Kansas City to New York four years ago, with the objective to stay for five years and reevaluate her love for the City then.

We’ve been on numerous adventures together and shared a considerable number of flats in various places. I legitimately thought I knew everything about her until the Napoleon breakout.

The conversation accidentally shifted to Napoleon at dinner tonight, and I described him as an imperialist dictator. α said that Napoleon was not French but Corsican, and that he managed to conquer the world despite his height. She has a “fascination by his brain, passion and physical body.” In her own words:  “I am intrigued by his obsession with Josephine, his complete narcissism, and his outfits. I also find him attractive in some of the paintings.”

She dressed as him for Halloween last year. She named herself “Napoleon Bones Apart” and added a collapsy skeleton part to her costume to justify the pun.

She piqued my curiosity. What was the reason behind that unusual passion?

α explained that it was a childhood thing. When she was a kid, her mother told her that one of her ancestors was serving in Napoleon’s army, or that he was close to Napoleon in some ways. The link is not clear.

Her child imagination made the shortcut to the belief that her ancestors were affiliated with Napoleon, and that she was therefore a descendant of Napoleon herself.

She used to walk around telling that story to whoever would listen because she was taking pride in having someone famous in her genetic background.

She grew up with that belief ingrained in her mental family constellation and developed a gentle obsession for him. Even as an adult.

That also makes me related to Napoleon in some way now. I am going to start walking around saying: “I am sharing a flat in Brooklyn with this descendant of Napoleon.”

I’ve Never Seen New York In The Fall

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My last night in New Orleans was sleepless. I did a bar crawl on Frenchmen street with κ² and α6. We drank profusely and ate crayfish hotdogs in a messy yet vibrant diner at 3am. I’m forgetting bits of the debauchery but I remember it was hot, noisy and joyful.

κ² was going to drive me to the station at 6am – in the objective to make me miss my train – but he fell asleep right before, and he’s too big and tall to be awaken by a lil girl like me. So I did my farewell to Sin city on board of a taxi whose driver’s grandfather had migrated from Sicily in 1903.

I took seat on board of the Amtrak to New York City at 7am. The sun was rising above New Orleans cemetery and I remember flying above the Mississippi River as if the train rails were literally lying on the water. I didn’t know if it was the reality or a trick from my drunken and sleepless imagination. I passed out on that image with the fear of drowning and woke up in Alabama.

I traveled for a day and a half through the landscapes of Georgia, Virginia, Washington DC, Delaware, for what I can recall. I spent most of the time with my nose stuck on the window, trying to absorb the depth of America.

I arrived in Brooklyn on a sunny Sunday afternoon and picked up the keys of my temporary home in “my” neighbourhood of BedStuy. I’m living a few blocks away from where I was living in the spring. Back home! Nothing has changed much. Only the autumn leaves replaced the snow of March.

I walk the same patterns I used to. The street art that I got familiar with is still there. It threw me back in time, reminded me of how I was feeling back then. That was several lives ago. Brooklyn is so similar to my memories that I can measure my own evolution even more clearly, like comparing two pictures of my inner self now and then. I’m way more on the highway of my life than I was at the time. There is still a considerable way to go, but there is hope as to the direction at least.

I went back to my writer’s café, The Civil Service – I have one in every city apart from the one where I officially live. This is where I started this blog seven months ago so I feel particular about this place. The first face I saw was familiar. That was a guy I interviewed to take over my bedroom after I would leave the country. We had a little chat. His haircut was different. Good to feel that New York knew I was in town.

I have never seen New York in the fall. This season suits the city. It covers it with an unusual softness, slows down its hectic pace. Carved pumpkins decorate the doorsteps, everything is orangey and Halloweeny. I feel like nesting and drinking spice latte on the deck of my temporary home, surrounded by colourful trees and clumsy squirrels.

I think about how I would feel if this flat was my permanent life, if I was going back to it every evening, if I didn’t have to pack my bags and move again, and again, and again. Feels like I’m always going somewhere next. Do I crave to live here just because I know I’ll be deported at the date stamped on my passport and that makes it the object of my burning desire? How much of my joy is due to the temporary factor? Gypsy trouble. So hard.

I am different from who I was in the spring and however my main interrogations are almost still the same.

Who is going to kiss me because they are drawn to my world and not because I am available lips? Where am I going to create a home that I won’t feel like blowing up after an undetermined amount of time?

Adventure shows up to me like that, I never turn it down. But settling down and opening up to intimacy is still the most unattainable thing on this side of my planet.

The God Bless You Dunkin’Donuts

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After a long failed day and 3 and a half hours of sofa sleep, I jumped on the F train at 5am with α, direction Coney Island.

We wanted to reiterate the Sunday morning sunrise experience, but actually seeing the sunrise from the beach and not from the highway this time.

It was still dark when we arrived in Coney Island, the fun fair was deadly silent apart from an odd pop music spitting from speakers somewhere. Fun fairs are often scary and depressing but empty fun fairs are scary and exciting. We wanted to jump the fence and sneak in the Ghost House.

We first went in search for coffee to salute the sun with our caffeine intake in the blood. We miraculously found a 24 hour Dunkin’ Donuts. α pushed the door saying “God bless 24 hour!”. The man at the counter was very sweet and slow and we had to explain several times “one everything bagel with cream cheese and one with butter”. He served us and instead of saying thank you or you’re welcome, he was saying “God bless you” in each sentence: “That’s your regular coffee, God bless you”, “One cream cheese bagel, God bless you”, “Here’s your change, God bless you”, “Have a nice day, God bless you”. We named this branch the ‘God bless you Dunkin’ Donuts’.

We walked to the beach and we weren’t sure in which direction to look at to see dawn breaking. I told α : “It is so random where the sun rises”. She looked at me very politely and replied: “Well, technically, it is always east.” I pulled myself together and explained that I have some very specific kind of genius.

While we were waiting for the show with the seagulls, α told me a very good bird story from the time she was living in Delaware in a beach house. After having an argument, she ran to the beach to find some peace of mind. The ocean and the scenery calmed her down, and to enhance this moment of bliss, 2 beautiful white doves flew over and landed close to her. She took it like a sign from the gods and closed her eyes to embrace this instant of plenitude. When she opened her eyes again, the doves had vanished and were replaced, exactly at the same spot, by 2 ugly sick-looking brown seagulls. I peed myself at the anecdote because I thought it sounded like a zen allegory or some wise metaphors from a fortune cookie: ‘You may think you saw a dove but in the blink of an eye a seagull appears.’ How can I ever be depressed with friends like that?

The sun finally rose and we danced and hip-hopped at it, then we walked along the ocean and we talked about having children or not, love patterns, and the Ministry of Silly Walks by the Monty Python.

The ocean was throwing yellow carnations at us. α and I love carnations because of the dance theatre masterpiece ‘Nelken‘ by German choreographer Pina Bausch, our spiritual Mother. It is the first of her pieces that we both ever saw, even before we met each other and before we knew we’d adopt dance theatre as a life style. Pina Bausch is one of the cements of our friendship because we took a very random journey to Wuppertal together to see ‘Kontakthof‘. We were 22 and didn’t know each other very well yet.

So we sat our butt on a rock and I finally showed her the pictures of my pilgrim to Wuppertal last January, when I left a postcard on Pina’s grave signed with our two names.

When our butt was frozen, we took the F train again. α stopped in Brooklyn, I continued to Manhattan to have coffee with β² who was in town only for a day and a half. I haven’t seen him since our Air Waves experience in Reykjavik last year. We met each other in LA last September, then we met again in Iceland a few weeks later, now we have a brief coffee in NYC.

He walked me to the door of the Joffrey Ballet School for my ultimate 5 Rhythms dance class of this chunk of time, and we hugged each other saying: “So, where next?”

I love catching up with people in different places every time.

Failed Day

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I reached my NYC home on Friday night at midnight, returning from New England. I hugged α² as if I hadn’t seen him in months. He had fixed me a cute Boy Scout bed on the sofa because him mum is visiting and she borrowed “my” bedroom.

I met her early the morning after and it was the most awkward parent introduction I have ever experienced. I rose from the sofa with my morning hair and she was already glowing with effortless elegance at 8am.

I was going on a day workshop at 11am called “How to fuck like a porn star” taught by Madison Young, a queer sex positive feminist porn actress whom I discovered in “Too Much Pussy” by Emilie Jouvet. I went for breakfast with α², his mum and β but I told in front of Ბs mum that I was going to a painting workshop. She was very excited about it and asked me super specific questions and α² and I struggled not to laugh, I just couldn’t look in his direction as I was trying hard to make something up.

I arrived at the workshop in an amazing 3 floor Brooklyn house with patio and hot tub only to find out that the porn star was in hospital because of food allergy, so I went back where I came from. Brooklyn was so sunny, it made the walk lazy and pleasant. I wanted to meet the family at the flea market but by the time I got there they had left. Bummer.

I went back to the Brooklyn 3 floor hot tub house in the evening for the after party – a Play Party. I got there early and hanged out awkwardly. Everyone was friend with everyone and was talking about Burning Man Festival, where I have never been. When the party really kicked in I realized that instead of queer friendly alternative and experimental as I expected, the crowd was borderline tasteless middle-class straight couple swingers. Only straight couples were walking in, 2 by 2 holding hands in ridiculous outfits (Superman, nurse, fishnet unitard with strategic holes, T-shirt with a picture of their dog) (no kidding). Some dudes were friendly and chatted me up but I told them that I was totally in the wrong party and that I’d soon be bored to death. I had a couple of cool talks but I spent most of the time pigging myself at the buffet ‘Eat as much as you like’ style, petting the cat and writing blog posts with my iPhone on the couch surrounded by bare butts. A man in latex told me off: ‘Stop texting!’

I got seriously hit on by a short old deaf guy with skinny legs who didn’t get that I wasn’t interested. Not only I didn’t feel like talking to him one bit, but I had to shout and repeat every sentence. He finally understood that I was at the wrong party cause I am exclusively into girls. He replied with a sassy face ‘No worries, I love watching women together!’ I hope he was trying to be funny. But I know he wasn’t and he had just said the worst line ever to tell a lesbian. He tried again later ‘So, you told me you are into girls, but guys must be into you cause you’re kinda cute’ with a cow-boy accent. Did it really have to be my last night in NYC? Bummer.

That was my biggest NYC failure, but it was extremely funny. I think I had a good time after all, not the good time I was aiming for but who cares, good time anyway.

I left soon after midnight and walked home. Brooklyn at night isn’t scary, there are even some gentlemen on the street. It is only piled with trash.

I slept with α on the couch, only a few hours because we wanted to catch the sunrise on Coney Island, our Sunday routine.

Failed days make the funniest stories.

 

A 24 Hour Brooklyn Snapshot

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It has been a Brooklyn week end. I kept being carried away from my original plans and found myself bouncing through improvisation and plans B like a flipper ball. For the best. This is certainly a New York thing, and more broadly a metropolis thing. It is incredible what one can fit within 24 hours in a huge city with so many life paths crossing each other every instant.

Yesterday at that time, I was writing a blog post at the Civil Service Café. All of a sudden I got overwhelmed by a wave of sorrow. I knew the reason. I didn’t want to cry in a public place although I usually “like” doing so, because the variety of people’s reactions in different countries has always interested me. I started crying outside at the closest intersection and a man asked me if I was fine, I said yes and continued my way. He raised his voice as I was moving away: “It is a beautiful day!” Yes, it was. Thank you, Noble Stranger.

It took me a moment to find back some peace of mind and gather enough strength to kick my ass and take the conscious decision to enjoy the last rays of sun. As I was leaving to the park, α² invited me to join him and β for a drink at one of their cult local bars. I poured some Chardonnay down my throat and laughed with my temp guardian angels, and my joy revived. We then moved on to dinner in a place with the most awful paintings ever made on the walls (I’m tempted to go back just to get evidence of this), like paintings of Jay-Z with a crown made by a 6 year-old.  From there we went to β’s roof terrace with Manhattan view. NYC from above!  As it was windy and dark up there we hanged out in his brick-wall living room and cuddled the VERY large cat he lives with. We then went into a gay bar crawl until late, first to the Metropolitan and later to the Dynaco, which has a really cosy Brooklyn vibe.

As I was waiting at the Dynaco counter to order my second amaretto sour, I overheard the word “green card” on my left so I raised an obsessed ear. I understood that the man sitting close to me had recently got married to a Japanese man who just got his green card last Thursday. I don’t know how I engaged the conversation with the guy, named τ, and after we chatted for a little bit he told me his very inspirational love story.

τ randomly met his husband-to-be 3 times in different spots of the world before they said YES! to each other, surrendering to fate. They met in Japan 19 years ago and had a few week fling which they didn’t pursue. 1 or 2 years later, τ, who had in the meantime moved from Oklahoma to NYC, went to a party organized by friends… and Japanese guy (I didn’t ask his name) was there. Second encounter. They both had no clue that they had simultaneously moved to the Big Apple. But τ was taken at the time, so it was another “rendez-vous manqué“. Some time later – I am uncertain of the time frame – τ moved to the West Village. After a few days in the neighborhood, he randomly bumped into Japanese guy on the street, who happened to have himself just recently moved to the area and was living 2 blocks down.

They’ve now been together for 16 years and got married after gay marriage was legalized in New York last year. And Japanese guy got his green card this week! I remember α telling me “New York takes care of you if you trust it”. That’s a sumptuous illustration. It gave me a great lift so I exchanged details with τ for when I live here. If only I got as many gay girls’ numbers as I get gay guys’ numbers, I would be Shane F***ing McCutcheon. (τ said that he has a powerful bad ass gorgeous lesbian filmmaker friend I’d really like. Sounds like I would.)

Back home after a hectic night out, I put in a frying pan whatever was comestible in the house for a middle of the night snack with α². We debriefed our respective break-ups and laughed a lot, but we tackled the deep stuff at the same time. We are doing well and are cute little people. I don’t need any other type of love than this one right now. It is moisturizing like a heart balm.

I slept 4 hours, my NYC week end average. α woke me up at 6am as her friend κ from yoga training was on her way to pick us up and go watch the sunrise on the beach. We drove to Coney Island and watched the actual sunrise from the car in BedStuy with Dunkin Donuts take away coffee. We stayed on the sea side for 3 hours doing yoga assignments and funny photo shoots. We passed Manhattan sublime island skyline with the bright morning sun reflecting on the skyscrapers and stinging my European eyes. We passed Lady Liberty whom I still find tiny compared to what I imagined all my life. (But I love her symbol dearly.)

We landed at the Civil Service café for breakfast and α² met his wives (he calls α & I like that). I soon took off for the Sunday morning 5 Rhythms dance class, the “Church” one. But NYC played a trick on me and trains were so heavily disrupted that I never made it to Manhattan. Too bad. I love dancing to chaos with no sleep and a huge shot of sunshine in my system.

As a consolation, I went to lie down in Washington Park with α². We watched people playing tennis and tried to figure out who in our group would be the most disastrous player, and what if we all played together.

Tonight, α will practice her yoga teaching skills on me.

It feels so unnatural that I legally don’t belong here.

Sinking in the New York Routine

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It is Sunday and I am at my Brooklyn HQ, The Civil Service café. Two obnoxious French guys apparently working in the movies talk very loud about their job drama. Oh well. I don’t like French people abroad (because I am one.)

I’ve been in the Big Apple for 4 weeks now and I finally found my pace, my places, my people. I start mapping the city with the regular patterns of my little glittery feet.

The girls at my office officially took a sudden dislike for me. There was a leaving drink on Thursday and 4 of the girls left at the same time, talking about the bar where they were heading to in front of me ; making sure to avoid any eye contact not to have to invite me. That was brutal. Then the wave of dudes left too and they all proposed me to join, hugged me and said they’d miss me if I didn’t show up. Thank God for the boys! I went to yoga and let it all out. I cried all class and it was hard to do the breath of fire with my nose full. I ended up making disgusting noises and bubbles but it was deeply relieving.

Anything else has been extraordinary. I went to a bar called the “One Last Shag” on Friday night after α² and β cooked home-made curry. I know the name of the place is improbable – but I saw the sign with my own eyes. I arrived late and breathed the crowd with curiosity. Anywhere else in the world, I’d find pathetic to end up alone at a bar counter in the middle of the night, but it makes me feel good here. Is it the context or the NY folks?

In a moment I started talking with a very pretty young boy called η. The usual. “I love your coat, you are gorgeous, we should hang out together.” He gave me his number. This is what my life is about. He was wearing the same bracelet as the one I bought on the Route 66 in New Mexico last October, with tiny camp Virgin Mary. He was a design student with his left arm covered with tattoos which he all imagined. I asked him to design my Earth Pulse symbol tattoo for the curve of my waist on the right side of my body. η told me that he is in love with a man ten years older then him who is in rehab for an undetermined amount of time. He visits him every week and can’t get him out of his head although the guy wants him to live his life and not wait for him. Poor kid. My mother heart to all my gay sons shivered. I love them all so much for no reason. That’s probably why they send me back an irrational amount of love without even knowing me either sometimes.

Saturday was doughnut day with my marvelous and generous friend ε – she’s one of the Whores of the Whore House. She flew from Chicago with her sister and her sister’s guide dog Sunshine just to kiss my cheeks. How wonderful is it to have friends jumping on a plane just to see a little bit of you? We had a lazy rainy New York afternoon and we stuffed our mouth with the orgasmic doughnuts from Dough between all the updates we had to tell each other. Good times.

Saturday night had to be dedicated to the Stonewall Inn cause I hadn’t been in a while and I need my vibe intake. I met my French London friend μ² who is in town for a week with her boyfriend. I became friend with μ² in unusual circumstances. I interviewed her for a job at my previous company 2 years ago and we’ve been friends since, although we both quit shortly after. I drank 4 Amaretto sour and we got our palm read by a very beautiful black drag queen with the shiniest lips I’ve ever seen. She checked my palm with a torch lamp and I picked up only half of what she said but I remember her saying “I want you to go out and flirt, I want you to let your friends have the final word in your love life, I see potential for marriage and a stable relationship.” Whatever. Me and my weird palm readers.

I came back home at midnight and α² prepared home-made salty pop corn. I loved it. Midnight pop corn with my Kansas City born hubby. When he went to bed, I put my sparkly Vivienne Westwood stilettos back on and faced the rain in the middle of the night for one last drink at the One Last Shag.

Nothing significant happened but it could as well have been the case.

I just wanted to live a little bit more before bedtime.